Russian pepper shots

This is a true story.

I used to work in bars and restaurants when I was in university.

My longest tenure at any one place was at a divey bar attached to a Howard Johnson near the 401 here in London. It was called The Black Pint and, at one point, it had been someone’s attempt at a quaint Irish Pub. By the time I arrived, however, The Black Pint’s best days were behind it, though it still did a pretty lively business on weekends, patronized by an eclectic mix of musicians, bikers, and whomever was staying in the adjacent HoJo—then the lowest cost accommodations in that part of town (now torn down to make way for The Keg). Fights were not uncommon at The Black Pint. A jealous member of a famous motorcycle club had once put three of our regular customers in the hospital. It was not without a certain charm. 

In an ill-advised attempt to save the business at a time when it seemed like most of our customers were only there to fight each other and most of the employees were only there to steal and/or get fucked up on the job, the business was sold to new owners who, for some reason, thought it might make a good spot for a family restaurant. Accordingly, they re-branded the place “The Wobbly Penguin” and started serving brunch. It was every bit as bleak as you might imagine and most of our customers and staff fled the place like rats on a sinking ship, but for some reason I stuck around. Continue reading “Russian pepper shots”

I don’t need labels that tell me my drink is cold


I received a press release the other day from a Canadian vodka company that recently updated their brand. In addition to a snazzy new website and new bottle shape, the press release informed me that the vodka company opted to include a new area on their label that changes colours when the vodka reaches optimal drinking temperature.

Now, I don’t have anything bad to say about the vodka–it’s actually a good, smooth, well-priced, Canadian vodka–but this sort of superfluous branding gimmick irks me.

It’s a strategy that was probably first and definitely most famously embraced by Molson-Coors when they opted to include colour-changing mountains on their beer bottle labels in 2007 (which were joined by “cold activated cans” in 2009). They ushered a new era of branding into an industry already awash with cheesy branding and arguably invented a new temperature by coining the term “rocky mountain cold.”

Now regardless of what some beer snobs might say, there is of course a time and a place for a really cold and easy to drink beer; post baseball game or following some strenuous yard work it’s hard to advocate downing a 16 degree Celsius snifter of Chimay Grand Reserve. One likely opts for something cold in these situations, whether it be rocky mountain cold, Rubbermaid cooler cold, or just plain garage fridge cold. However, choosing to market your beer on the merit of its cold temperature and the beer’s ability to let you know when it has reached that temperature is just plain stupid.  Continue reading “I don’t need labels that tell me my drink is cold”